Expectations

 

Kleitsch-Older NedI do not write poetry. However, once in a while I like to share another writer’s great verses. The following was written by Thomas Hardy in 1926.

He Never Expected Much

Well, World, you have kept faith with me,

Kept faith with me;

Upon the whole you have proved to be

Much as you said you were.

Since as a child I used to lie

Upon the leaze and watch the sky,

Never, I own, expected I

That life would all be fair.

My childhood expectations were different from those of Thomas Hardy, for which I am thankful. They changed soon enough in adulthood so I am glad my childhood was unencumbered by the World according to Hardy. Not everyone is so fortunate.

World, I am not amused with you right now.

(NOTE: A leaze is a pasture.)

 

 

 

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Tontine

Waterhouse-Diogenes

I am currently reading The Tontine, a two-volume novel by Thomas B. Costain, published in 1955. Two brief facts: Thomas Costain was born in Ontario, Canada in 1885 and died in New York City in 1965. A tontine, according to Webster’s dictionary, is “an annuity scheme in which subscribers share a common fund with the benefit of survivorship, the survivors’ shares being increased as the subscribers die, until the whole goes to the last survivor.”

That is the only quote I am providing because The Tontine is a destination, not a journey book. It’s a page-turner in the sense that one keeps reading to see what happens; but it is not a page-stopper in that there are no memorable spiritual or philosophical gems over which to ponder. Costain wrote in a similar manner in The Silver Chalice and The Darkness and the Dawn; it’s straightforward storytelling without any stops along the way for a cup a tea at an old mill.

The Tontine, however, takes a diversion into another country with two of the characters. I am not too keen on diversions; I don’t know how much information about a new setting and new characters I should retain for future reference. If something about the diversion is central to the plot, I will have to go back and re-read it, something I don’t like to do with a destination book. It is a non-preferred activity.

A tontine itself is an interesting concept for a story. One knows from the beginning that there will be only one survivor; the question is whom will it be? In reading about a tontine, one must settle in for a decades-long story. If the storyteller is skillful (as Costain is), the reader will make an emotional investment in his or her favorite character and will want to see them win.

(Note to self: I don’t think George R. R. Martin would do well with a tontine—he kills off so many characters, it’s not worth caring about them.)

(Note to self: That is an uncharitable remark. The chemo must be getting to me.)

That is all I have to say about The Tontine. Why belabor the point?

The Great No

Waterhouse-Knight Lady

“You are at the moment the virgin schoolmistress…prim, clinging to conventions, completely ignorant of the world. My dear Cordelia, beneath that schoolmistress is a passionate woman eager to escape…to life. If you are going to fight…fight. But you will soon see how much stronger I am than you. Come, let me take your coat. You look flushed and overheated. My dear love, Cordelia, you are going to be so happy…We both are.”

Sir Jason Verringer The Time of the Hunter’s Moon by Victoria Holt

Smooth words, seductive words, enticing words design to flatter and manipulate, but for a woman who has found her “no” they are a discordant clash of sounds. In the case of Cordelia, she did not have her “no”; Sir Jason brushed aside her protests, her anger, and her indignation like so many flies around a honey pot. The reason? Cordelia was secretly flattered. At one point she confesses to herself that she wishes Sir Jason had swept her into the bedroom and forced her against her will. One doesn’t get too far with a “no” in a divided frame of mind. Later on, Cordelia and Sir Jason talk about the attempted rape. Cordelia tells him how greatly he insulted her.

“Insulted you? On the contrary I have paid you the highest compliment a man can pay to a woman.”

ARGGH! At this point, I put the book aside and looked up information on Victoria Holt, thinking this was probably a male writer. It wasn’t. Victoria Holt is the pen name of Eleanor Hibbert, a prolific novelist (1941–1993) of historical fiction, Gothic fiction, and Romantic fiction. What was she thinking in writing this? Double ARGGH! If impressionable girls are devouring this kind of sop, what chance do they have of finding their “no”? Yet, how important it is for everyone to find it!

With the right kind of “no”, the most euphonious of lies can be changed into a cacophony of noise, exposed for what they really are. The right kind of “no” is not always spoken; sometimes it’s just a look. And how does one find their “no”? In my experience, the right kind of “no” doesn’t start with the mouth; it originates in the heart and mind. Here’s to the wonderful, powerful No.

Daily Post Cacophony

A Dab of Dobbin

Pyle-Mermaid

Please, release me, let me go, for I don’t love you anymore.

To waste our lives would be a sin. Release me and let me love again.

(Song written in 1949 by Eddie Miller and Robert Yount)

The Daily Press word-of-the-day is Release . If there is one literary character that personifies the song Release Me, it is William Dobbin in the novel Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackery. Dobbin remains faithful to Amelia Sedley for years, even after her marriage to George Osborne. His name crops up occasionally in other literature as a byword for faithfulness and unrequited love. In one of Agatha Christie’s novels, a character is described as “a regular Dobbin”; that one word reveals volumes about the person.

There is another “Dobbin” in Vanity Fair and that is Amelia Sedley, the character about which Dobbin is so Dobbinish. She marries Dobbin’s best friend, George Osborne and when he is killed in battle, makes her life a shrine to his existence. Cherishing the memory of George, she rebuffs Dobbin’s offers of marriage, treating him very shabbily.

Now whenever I encounter a literary Dobbin, I always analyze the object of their devotion. Many times it’s a real head-scratcher. Take, for example, George Osborne. He is the spoiled son of a rich man. A vain, self-centered spendthrift, he squanders his inheritance and leaves Amalia pregnant and penniless at the time of his death. He also flirts shamelessly with Amalia’s best friend, Becky Sharp. While reading the book, I could find no qualities he possessed that compelled his wife’s steadfast devotion. Over and over, I asked myself, “Why, Amelia, why?”

I can understand why there are Dobbin characters in the first place. They can be interesting. However, when I consider all of the Dobbins I have encountered in literature, most of them are like Amelia. Why is that? Why do the worst characters bring out a person’s Dobbinishness?

(Note to self: Don’t be a Dobbin—if you must, make sure that he or she is worthy.)

So my advice to all you literary characters out there is this: If you are considering being a Dobbin, I suggest you dabble in it first. Begin by being a Dob and investigate your Dobbee thoroughly and objectively. It could save you a lifetime of grief.

 

Cry Aloud, Spare Not

Klimt-Cottage

(Rhino Between the Lines)

Amalia was awakened by the sound of tapping at the window. Heart pounding, she listened in the dark. Tap. Tap. Tap. There it was again. Someone was outside her room. Amalia was afraid, but she was not one to hoard her fear—she poked her sister Anna sleeping next to her.

“Anna,” she whispered, “Wake up. Someone is tapping on the window.”

Anna was awake in an instant.

“Oh, Mole, are you sure?”

“Shh…listen.”

Both girls sat up in bed and strained their ears. There was no more tapping. Instead, they heard the sound of voices whispering. It was followed a minute later by the sound of the back door opening. Amalia stiffened.

“Whoever it is, they are in the house,” she whispered.

“What should we do?”

Amalia thought for a moment.

“I am going to warn the household.”

“WHAT!”

“Quiet! On the count of three, I’m going to run down the hallway to our parent’s room and wake them up.”

“Oh, Mole, please don’t. I’ll be so scared. What if you get caught by whoever it is?”

“I’ll risk it. It’s just something I have to do. Ready? One…two… three.”

Amalia threw off the covers and ran screaming down the hallway.

“HELP! HELP! HELP!”

Franna and Virgil threw open their door and caught Amalia as she hurtled headlong into them.

“Mole! What is it?” cried Virgil.

“There’s someone in the house,” Amalia panted.

Franna lighted a candle and the three of them made their way to the front room. There stood Cyril, Amalia’s brother, with his arm around a young man, who seemed to be in a swoon

“Cyril! What in heaven’s name is this?” Franna exclaimed.

At the sound of her voice, the young man lifted his head and waved his arm.

“You,” he said, “have aroused by interest. Now go away; I’ve grown quite bored of you.” Then his head drooped once more.

Virgil came closer and sniffed.

“Cyril,” he said, “I believe your companion is drunk.”

Cyril sighed.

“He is, unfortunately. This is Goodman Anselm’s nephew, Willis, who is staying with him for a while. We met the other day and formed an acquaintance. I don’t know what happened to get him in this state, but he decided he could not go to his uncle’s in this condition. So here came here instead.”

Cyril looked around the room. There was Virgil, Franna, Amalia, and Anna. Lammet, hearing the commotion, had also joined the group.

“I am so sorry,” he said. “When he knocked on my window, I didn’t know what else to do.”

Virgil put his arm under Willis and nodded to Cyril.

“There’s no harm done,” he said, “Let’s get this one to bed for now; we’ll talk in the morning.”

Together he and Cyril frog-marched Willis out of the room.

Amalia stared after them and groaned.

“I am so stupid,” she said. “I’ve made a first class fool of myself. Mother, how could I be such a dolt, running and screaming like that?”

Franna put her arm around her daughter.

“I call that being brave,” she said. “You had no idea it was Cyril and his friend. Instead, you ran into what you thought was danger in order to save your family. I’m proud of you. You did well.”

Amalia brightened.

“You really think so?” she said. “I didn’t feel brave at the time.”

“Those who are truly brave rarely do. They just work with their fear to do the right thing.”

Later in bed, Anna poked Amalia.

“Are you asleep yet? I think you are brave, too—loud, but brave. Maybe tomorrow we can go somewhere and practicing screaming, just in case.”

“That’s a great idea. We must always make sure our voice is heard. It’s the brave thing to do.”

Daily Prompt:Brave

Leeches are Loyal

Map-Monster

The Daily Post word-of-the-day is Loyal , which is defined as faithful to one’s friends, family, country, ideals, etc. It is giving or showing firm and constant support and allegiance to a person, an institution, etc. The definition says nothing about worth of either the loyalist or the “loyalee.” It is possible for a person to be loyal to a real stinker.

Leeches and other parasites are loyal. A leech will faithfully attach itself to a host to the point of killing it. That’s loyalty for you. However, can one really blame leeches for behaving the way that nature made them? Do leeches have a choice in their blood-sucking ways? No, the poor things have to keep doing what they do because they don’t know any better.

Humans, however, should know better, but some of them act as if they don’t. C. S. Lewis wrote:

“She’s the sort of woman who lives for others—you can always tell the others by their hunted expression.” The Screwtape Letters

That being said, I am all for loyalty. I am a loyal person myself. But I pay a price for it. My loyalty demands that I exercise critical thinking and value objectivity over sentimentality. It means I must be willing to change my mind about to whom or what I am loyal. I think, in the long run, that blind, underserved loyalty eventually sucks the life out its object, just like a leech.

I say “no” to leechery. It’s not fit for human consumption.

(Note to self: In Jane Austen’s book Sanditon, one of the characters fancies herself ill and has a treatment of leeches. It is odd to associate Jane Austen’s world with leeches and blood-letting, but there it is. I wonder if Mr. Darcy was ever “leeched” when no one was writing about him.)

Looking Daggers at Cloaks

Parrish-Society

The Daily Post word-of-the-day is Cloaked. It reminds me of a passage in the novel Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott.

The setting is a feast in honor of Prince John to which all nobles are invited to attend, both Norman and Saxon. Cedric and Lord Athelstane, Saxons, accept Prince John’s invitation.

“Cedric and Athelstane were both dressed in ancient Saxon garb, which, although not unhandsome in itself, and in the present instance composed of costly materials, was so remote in shape and appearance from that of the other guests, that Prince John took great credit to himself with Waldemar Fitzurse for refraining from laughter at a sight which the fashion of the day rendered ridiculous.”

It turns out the offending garment was a long cloak; the Normans favored short ones. Scott provides a brief commentary on short cloaks.

“The Emperor Charlemagne, in whose reign they were first introduced, seems to have been very sensible of the inconveniences arising from the fashion of this garment.

‘In Heaven’s name, said he, ‘to what purpose serve these abridged cloaks? If we are in bed they are no cover, on horseback they are no protection from the wind and rain, and when seated, they do not guard our legs from the damp or frost.’

Nevertheless, in spite of this imperial objurgation, the short cloaks continued in this fashion down to the time of which we treat. They were therefore in universal use among Prince John’s courtiers, and the long mantle, which formed the upper garment of the Saxons, was held in proportional derision.”

Apparently humans have been silly about clothes for a long time.

As Louisa May Alcott wrote, “let us be elegant or let us die.”

Exposing the Exceptional

Moose “The impulse to say something to make people sit up and take notice is universal to humankind.” H. L. Mencken ~ “The Worst Trade of Them All”

“I don’t mind so much that people invent stories; it’s when they behave as if the stories are true.” The Book of Rhino

(Life at Cabela’s)

“My dear, “Greg announced one morning, “I have decided to be exceptional. Now, don’t try to dissuade me. I feel that it is my chosen fate.”

Marina digested this piece of news with her toast.

“Exceptional,” she replied. “That’s a bit of a tall order, isn’t it? Won’t you find your prospects somewhat…limited?”

“Nonsense! It’s all a matter of timing and perspective, coupled with a willful change in attitude. If I say I am going to be exceptional, then there is no doubt I can pull it off. I just have to attune myself to that which is unusual and uncommon about me. And, what is more important, I must overcome my natural diffidence to expose myself.”

“I suppose,” said Marina. “But what if diffidence is the very thing that is exceptional these days? Might it be possible that exposing oneself is the rule rather than the exception? Just asking.”

Greg was aghast.

“What a preposterous idea! If everyone took it in their head to expose how exceptional they are, there would be nothing exceptional at all, except those who labor in obscurity. And if someone is exceptionally obscure, the world remains ignorant of his or her exceptionalism. No, no, my dear. The idea is too monstrous. You must allow me to expose myself, in full confidence that in doing so, I will be exceptional”

“Very well; I won’t say another word about it.”

“That’s better,” said Greg. He looked about the room, feeling extremely exceptional. Marina hoped that no one noticed.

Daily Prompt:Exceptional

Lake Tahoe

Klee-Byzantium

“Belief is faith in something that is known; faith is belief in something that is not known.” H. L. Mencken ~ “What I Believe”

Lately on my Facebook page, there have been a few postings on political correctness: its definition, meaning, and origin. They put me in mind of political maps, the kind that delineate governmental boundaries countries, states, counties, etc. They often include large bodies of water.

If one looks at a political map of California, one can identity the boundary that separates it from Nevada. At one point, the boundary goes through Lake Tahoe. One part of Lake Tahoe is in California and the other part is in Nevada. Now I have been on Lake Tahoe in a boat, some of the time in California waters and some of the time in Nevada waters, but I never did see a dividing line that distinguished one from the other. I had to believe that the political boundary existed. Moreover, I had to believe that sometimes I was under California law, and other times I was governed by Nevada laws. But as I recall, I did not brush up on either state’s laws in order to prepare for my time on Lake Tahoe. I merely put on my best behavior, trusting that I would offend neither authority.

To me, this is like political correctness. It is a political map designating boundaries, public, personal, and private. It’s like being on a boat in Lake Tahoe. I do not study all the laws of every human being to make sure I do not give offense before I venture into society. I believe that such laws exist, but I trust in my best behavior to help me muddle through life without consciously offending anyone.

In a way, I’m like one of the little fishes that swim in the lake. They travel at will through the waters without any reference to a political boundary. I swim in a stream of good conscience, trusting that it will suffice. If someone points out a particular political boundary I have crossed, I will make note of it and try not to offend a second time.

But here’s the deal. I do not always remember all the personal laws of political correctness; there are too many of them. In addition, the ones that do not personally offend me are very hard to remember. This is where faith comes in—the belief in something that is not known. By faith, I believe that I can participate in a society as a contributing member even it I do not know all the laws of political correctness. I have faith in the social compact.

“Those who wish to live in a civilized society must have a social compact that everyone abides by for the good of the community.” The Book of Rhino
Daily Prompt: Believe

The Great Secret

The Daily Press word-of-the-day is Deny. It reminds me of a scene between Skandar and Amalia the day they first met. Skandar is on his way to London to be inducted as the brother of Prince Rhino, which means he must leave his old life behind, and that includes his natural brother, Alanar. Although Skandar must never speak of Alanar as his brother, his heart cannot deny his love for him. In the meantime, Amalia is curious about Skandar and senses that he has a secret, which she is determined to winkle out of him. She wonders whether or not Skandar is going to tell a lie; she is rather excited about the prospect.

Seigna-Diana

Without thinking he blurted out, “This is just like the cave that my brother and I discovered!”

“Brother?” Amalia looked puzzled. “You have a brother?”

Skandar was aghast. What was he to do? He stammered as he searched for words.

“I, uh, I…well, I can’t really…what I mean is…there’s this person who…who…oh, bother!”

“Are you going to tell a lie?” Amalia asked. “Because if you do, tell a lie, that is, I really don’t mind. The lie, I mean. I just want to know what it feels like.” She looked at Skandar expectantly. Perhaps she would perceive his evil!

Skandar stared at Amalia.

“I am not going to tell a lie,” he protested. “I’m just looking for a way to tell the truth. There are some things I am not supposed to talk about and my brother is one of them.” Skandar threw himself down on the ground and began pulling up tufts of grass. Looking somewhat disappointed, Amalia plopped down beside him.

“So why can’t you talk about your brother?”

“It’s because of the Covenant. You’ve heard of the Covenant, haven’t you?”

“A little–but what does that have to do with your brother?”

“Because the Covenant states that I’m supposed to be the prince’s brother! It makes it rather awkward to already have one. What I mean is, Alanar, that’s my brother, and I had all sorts of adventures together. Just think how that would be if I went around telling everyone how much fun we had—my mother said ‘it would be inappropriate.’” Skandar looked at Amalia for reassurance. “Mole, do you understand what I mean?”

Amalia nodded sympathetically. At length she said, “I think it will be alright if you tell me about you and your brother. After all, I am not the prince and I won’t think it’s ‘inappropriate.’”